So, I went to Warren Wilson College when I was 17, and I left it when I was 19.
I was so burned out by the place that for about six months after I left, I purposefully and aggressively refused to recycle. I left lights on. I wasted water. I kind of thought that this made me a bad person, but it was a necessary cleansing step for me. At Wilson, environmentalism is shoved in your face and you don't have a choice. It was one of the reasons I picked Wilson in the first place, but I very quickly burned out, and after a lot of thinking about it, I think I know why.
I believe fundamentally in compromise. I don't think anything is black or white. It's all shades of gray, sometimes so dark or light that we can't see it, but black and white exist only in theory. Life is all mixed up. Nothing is clean and nothing is totally rotten.
I do believe in treating the Earth with respect, and responsible use of natural resources, but I also believe that there are a lot of people in the world, and they can't all afford the better option. At Wilson, most of the kids came from families that could easily afford the organics and the handmade-by-empowered-women-in-Africas, so they didn't understand what everyone else's problem was.
It's like, I love animals, probably more than I love people, but I'll never join PETA because they don't compromise. They think we should get rid of animal husbandry altogether, when in fact centuries of domestication have rendered cows, sheep and chickens completely incapable of life in the wild. We have a responsibility to them and unfortunately that means we have to continue the industry. I do think it could be done in a much more sustainable and humane fashion, but PETA doesn't accept that compromise, so they don't get my money.
WalMart is an awful, soul-sucking place that destroys small businesses and treats its employees like dirt - but in a crappy economy where the price of living keeps going up and up and the minimum wage stays exactly the same, they make it so that a lot of people can afford to eat and buy clothes. The entire system is broken, not just one little part.
I sometimes joke about how I'm not a very nice person. The truth is that I taught myself to be more selfish after I left Wilson, on the heels of a mental breakdown and completely without a singular, personal sense of Right and Wrong. I'd been letting people dictate how I should think and it left me a weary, out-of-shape, confused smoker, hanging my dreams onto people who weren't at all interested in taking care of them and running away from the people who were.
It took me a long time to feel Better.
I love the world and sometimes I feel like it loves me back, and I try to do the right thing when I can, but I look at articles about Green Living and blogs by people who make their own soap and only eat foods grown in a 50 mile radius, and it just makes me... tired.